Historic Lambeau Field was drenched by a solid rain Thanksgiving Day and night, but it didn’t deter thousands of Packers fans from being there.
It was the day the Green Bay Packers unveiled Brett Favre’s name and retired number on the walls inside the stadium. An event long in the planning — it lived up to expectations. Favre was also recognized earlier this summer, when he was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame, before another supportive crowd at the stadium.
No. 4 stood in a spotlight in the pouring rain Thanksgiving evening with a typical Brett Favre half-smile, squinty-eyed smirk, but you could tell he was living in the moment. The more-than 78,000 people in the stands — very few of whom left during the half-time ceremony — also “soaked” it up.
Words were said. People were thanked. Fans were cheering.
But the best was yet to come.
From the Packers’ entrance to the field, an 81-year-old Bart Starr sat in a roofed cart with his wife, Cherry. On the huge screens that sit high above Lambeau on both endzones, fans could see Starr’s smiling face.
A roar as loud, if not louder, than the one which heralded Favre’s entrance, resounded in the stadium. Starr, who has struggled with failing health, lit up the dark, rainy night with his joyous smile.
The cheering continued as Starr and his wife rode along the south endzone, up to the 50-yard line and onto the field.
As Starr neared the platform that had been placed at mid-field for Favre’s ceremony, Favre jumped down and went to the cart to help Starr to his feet.
The moment was electric. Two of the Packers’ favorite sons — together in celebration —likely for the last time.
Much was written about Starr’s struggles to overcome recent health setbacks. His family and caregivers encouraged him back to strength with the promise of a special visit to Lambeau Field — the home of his own professional triumphs and where he formed lifelong friendships.
Starr was the only quarterback in NFL history to lead a team to five championships and was the Most Valuable Player of the first two Super Bowls.
Favre, who was the only quarterback to have won three consecutive MVP awards, and held or shared more than 320 NFL records at the time of his retirement, played into his 40s, although the latest years were not with Green Bay.
The Thanksgiving Day ceremony, which was Favre’s moment in glory, became Starr’s — and Favre was more than willing to share the spotlight. Favre’s humility endeared him even more to the fans who have loved him through the great and not-so-great times of his professional football career. He showed, once again, the face of the boy/man who simply loved playing football and who worshipped those legends who came before him.
As the ceremony ended, a still-smiling Starr leaving the stadium in the cart graced the screens above fans, and you could see him saying to his beloved Cherry, “Oh, my God! Oh my God!” in response to the thunderous roar of the crowd.
On a cold, rainy night, Favre and Starr warmed the hearts of not only Packers fans, but the hearts of all those who love the game.